JUPITER, Fla. -- With relievers Mitchell Boggs and Fernando Salas off to the World Baseball Classic for anywhere from a week to nearly three weeks, the Cardinals' bullpen will take on a different look.
Boggs will have the eighth inning waiting for him when he comes back. Salas, who spent some time in the minors last season, has taken a calculated risk in going to the WBC although he has on his side those club-leading 24 saves he amassed in 2011 ?and his efficient pitching this spring in which he has allowed just one hit, a home run, in 10 at-bats.
Manager Mike Matheny said he would be paying attention to Salas' performances for Team Mexico because ?the pitcher probably will be facing as good a competition there as he would ?in ?spring training.
But Salas' temporary absence, and to a lesser extent that of Boggs, has opened the door for righthander Eduardo Sanchez, who has had some success with the Cardinals in each of the last two seasons, and also for Trevor Rosenthal, who appears more fowl (reliever) than fish (starter).
Sanchez said he could appreciate the extra chances he will get. "Absolutely," he said. "With Boggs and Salas gone, that's two more innings."
Rosenthal, who has had two good relief outings after a rugged start in the first game of the spring, pitched around a leadoff triple by Miami's Matt Downs in the fourth and a one-out double by Christian Yelich in the fifth inning as he recorded two scoreless frames in the Cardinals' 7-2 exhibition win Wednesday.
But Rosenthal too often pitched behind in the count, and that merited a three-pronged discussion among Rosenthal, pitching coach Derek Lilliquist and Matheny after the game in which Rosenthal was encouraged to get ahead in the counts.
"Pitching ahead a little more of hitters will be my main focus from here on out," Rosenthal said afterward. "I've only had a couple innings in the games I've had. I need to keep getting innings.
"The big thing right now is to have that starter's mentality. Come out of the bullpen prepared for that first inning."
The fact that Rosenthal, advertised as a candidate for the lone starting job that's available, has pitched twice in the bullpen and the other two candidates, Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller, are starting the next two games for the Cardinals would suggest that Rosenthal's immediate future would be in the bullpen, similar to last season when he was brought up a couple of times and again in the postseason when he was dominant.
But Matheny said, "Not yet," when asked if Rosenthal was being classified as a reliever.
"I thought he did a great job," Matheny said after the 22-year-old's effort Wednesday. "He looks real good to me."
Matheny allowed that it will be difficult to give too many potential starters the innings that starters need at this stage as the five rotation members try to get where they can throw 100 pitches by the end of camp. Then he said ?the team was "getting close" to determining roles for the likes of Rosenthal; Kelly, who relieved eight times last season; and Miller.
Rosenthal has seemed calmer coming out of the bullpen than he did when he started but Matheny said that wasn't an apt comparison.
"His first day, he was over-amped," Matheny said. "He couldn't wait to show off what he had been working on all winter. But that's not a fair assessment.
"It's true what you saw but to throw that over top of him, I don't think is that accurate."
Sanchez had a spotless sixth inning Wednesday and has a 2.08 earned run average over five appearances. Significantly, he hasn't walked anybody in 4 1/3 innings while striking out six. Previously, command had not been his friend as the Venezuelan battled through shoulder difficulties the past two seasons.
He walked 34 hitters in 42 2/3 innings combined at St. Louis and Memphis last season. The year before with the Cardinals, opponents batted just .144 against Sanchez, who may have the best stuff on the staff, but he walked 16 in 30 innings. Sanchez said Wednesday that his shoulder didn't hurt anymore and that he felt he finally had found that elusive control.
Matheny knows how deep his righthanded bullpen is with Jason Motte, Boggs, Edward Mujica, Salas and potentially Rosenthal, but he likes what he's seen of Sanchez.
"He's been in the strike zone. He's been getting the 'ugly' swings," said Matheny.
A laudatory Lilliquist said, "Whew. His command is in order, his arm looks healthy and everything he's doing is positive."
Asked about Sanchez's chances of cracking the Cardinals' bullpen, Lilliquist said, "I have an open mind to a lot of different situations.
"If he keeps doing what he's doing, he's pretty impressive. When I watch guys take an at-bat off him, it's a very uncomfortable at-bat."
Matheny said Sanchez "never really was out of the picture. He's a guy who's got electric stuff. We know he can pitch at this level. We don't rule out anybody. It's way too early to do that."
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